Towards combating economic recession through agriculture, experts have called for the empowerment of smallholder family farmers and involvement of Public, Private Partnership (PPP).
Seasoned resource persons at a recent workshop organised by the National Association of Agriculture Journalists (NAAJ), with the theme: “Sustainable Agriculture Under Economic Recession,” in Lagos, suggested strategies for government, agricultural stakeholders and farmers, to achieve food security and rescue the failing economy.
The Chief Editor of Farming Africa and member of the International Federation of Agricultural Journalists-guild from The Netherlands, Mr. Marc Van der Sterren, who emphasised the importance of smallholder farmers, for contributing 80 per cent of all the food in the world, appealed to the government to focus on the empowerment of smallholder family farmers through providing them access to independent information, knowledge and education.
According to him, government’s focus should not be on increasing food quantities through big industrialised agribusinesses, but their first aim should be at the smallholder family farmer by leading subsistence farmers on a path towards sustainable commercial farming and empowering all family farmers through independent information.
“With this new focus, not only hunger will be tackled, but more goals. Many more. In fact: this focus reaches all 17 sustainable development goals. This might seem too good to be true. But when things seem too good to be true, it doesn’t mean they can’t be true. The new focus is a triangle with the capacity to fade out all kinds of hunger in the world and the most important forms of poverty. It is a golden triangle between smallholder farmers, independent information and empowerment.
“Small-scale family farmers are the most important people in the world. Even the United Nations acknowledges this. Last May, in China, a high official of the UN told the G20: ‘If we abandon smallholder farmers, we abandon our future.’ He also said: ‘we can only reach the SDG’s by investing in smallholder farmers. If you take a close look at those goals, we can reach each and every one of them with a focus on the small-scale farmer.’ I pointed it out in this essay. Smallholder family farmers are the shortcut in ending all sorts of poverty and in tackling climate change. Of course, they are the most important people in the world,” he said.
Sterren lamented that across the world, Africa inclusive, young people are attracted to cities, leaving the countryside, with the age of a farmer on average at 60, saying such is really a threat to food security.
“Food is a matter of life and death. In the Western world, where I come from, people seem to have forgotten. In the West food became ordinary and obvious. People don’t think about it. It’s always there and it’s cheap. But farmers give us more than food. They make it possible that we do not have to go out in the field to work for some food on the table.”
The Sokoto State commissioner for agriculture, Alhaji Umar Nagwari Tambuwal, said government is vigorously pursuing foreign investors with a view to getting the country out of the present economic recession.
According to him, in order to counter economic recession, government has realised that the only answer is diversification of the economy and involvement of private sector in the economy, with the agricultural as the key, which has the capacity to stimulate and generate inclusive economic growth, reverse the importation of food and conserve the foreign exchange earnings, guarantee food security and as well provide the needed employment.
Achieving agricultural development in partnership with foreign investors, Tambuwal said government must provide enabling environment for ease of doing business; allowing five years tax holiday for investors; removal or lowering of tariffs; allowing foreign investors to repatriate their money based on agreed financial arrangement; and organising smallholder farmers into viable producer groups.